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NOAA Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Frequently Asked Questions about the Mediation Services offered by NOAA’s ADR Program.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a facilitated, interest-based, problem solving process. It is voluntary for each participant. The objective is to reach a settlement of the dispute that is acceptable to each party. The mediators are neutral and impartial, and do not serve as judges of the facts, or as advocates for either side.

How is mediation different from the traditional avenues of complaint or grievance resolution?

In mediation, the disputants control the outcome. Mediation can usually be scheduled and completed quickly.

Will I lose any of my rights when I go to mediation?

Your rights, either as an employee or as a manager, are fully protected when you go to mediation. If you are able to reach a settlement, the settlement is fully enforceable. If you do not reach settlement, you return to the more formal processes at the point when you elected mediation.

What can I expect when I go to mediation?

You will be talking about your perceptions and feelings about what happened to bring you to mediation. During the mediation you will be exploring your own interests and issues, and you will be listening to the issues and interests of the other side. Together, you will be seeking creative options that satisfy the interests of both sides, and figuring out a settlement that defines your future relationship or actions in a mutually acceptable way.

Who will mediate my case?

The ADR Program staff carefully selects your mediators to ensure they are neutral, highly skilled and impartial. Your mediators will come from the Shared Neutrals Program, (a cadre of Federal employees who are highly trained and certified to mediate for Federal agencies), the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and other Federal agencies. You may have one or two co-mediators assigned to your case.

Will mediation work every time?

No. You and the other side may have interests that just cannot be reconciled. However, your chances for reaching a settlement increase with your ability to understand your own interests and your ability to understand the interests of the other side. Good settlements are made when each person helps to develop creative options that meet the needs and interests of all parties.

How confidential is mediation?

All initial consultations are confidential. Once you have elected mediation, the other participants will be notified that you want to mediate. What goes on in the actual mediation is confidential. When you reach settlement, the agreement is reviewed by the Office of General Counsel, the Workforce Management Office and the Civil Rights Office (for EEO cases). When all clearances are completed, the officials who will be taking action are notified.

Why does the settlement have to get reviewed by Office of General Counsel, then must be cleared by the Office of General Counsel, the Workforce Management Office, and Civil Rights Office?

There are many laws and regulations that govern what can and cannot be done in the Federal government. The Office of General Counsel, Workforce Management Office, and Civil Rights Office reviews of each settlement ensure that all of the actions to be taken as a result of the settlement are legal and comply with applicable regulations.

When can I request mediation?

You can request mediation at any time. We encourage you to contact us whenever you feel a work place difficulty is taking too much of your time and energy, and your efforts to resolve it have not produced the results you’ve wanted. You can request mediation before you go to the EEO process, or to the grievance process, or during either one of those forums.

I’m having a problem with an employee I supervise–can I ask for mediation?

Yes, you can. When you contact your Human Resources Advisor or the ADR Program, simply mention that you are making the initial request for mediation.

Where can I get more information about the process of mediation?

Visit the mediation process section of this web-site for a complete view of the process used in NOAA mediations.

How do I prepare for mediation?

Talk through your issues with your Human Resources Advisor, your EEO counselor, and/or the ADR Program staff. More suggestions can be found at the Preparing for Mediation section on this web site.

I’ve read everything I can find on mediation, but I’m still not sure the process will meet my needs.

The ADR Program staff can help you think through the best approach for your particular situation. While most workplace disputes can be helped with mediation, there are some disputes that are best approached in other ways, such as through EEO complaints, agency or negotiated grievance procedures, Employee Assistance Program consultation, large or small group facilitations, specially designed training, or other methods tailored to your particular needs.

I have other questions–how can I get a quick answer?

Simply send an e-mail to the NOAA ADR Program, at, and be sure to include your telephone number, your time zone, and the best time to reach you during the day. All e-mail inquiries are treated confidentially.

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